I was somewhat nervous this morning. Today was the day that Watson and I were taking an exam to see whether he was a well-behaved dog. We’ve taken a number of courses together, beginning with a puppy course a year ago, but now came the test of the final course, which would be adjudicated by an independent examiner from the Dutch National Federation of Dogsports.
The exam involves a number of different tests, such as seeing how Watson responds to commands, and how he behaves towards other dogs and people.
I have to say that my confidence was not high – we did a dummy run a few weeks ago with our instructors, and Watson (and I) were bordering on the fail mark. The main problem area is that Watson is simply too over-enthusiastic about meeting people. The exam contains a couple of exercises that test how a dog reacts to people, and the idea is that he will remain quietly sitting when he’s in a group of people sitting at a pavement café, or when someone comes up and shakes hands with his owner. Watson, of course, loves people and jumps all over them at any opportunity. If he jumped up on people during the café test, it would be curtains – instant fail.
So we started with the test of him walking beside me, as I traversed a course. The dog has to sit on command at three points in the course – at the beginning, halfway through and at the end. We managed to do that, although the examiner said later that he was amused by all the hand signals and “turn left!”, “sit!”, and “turn right!” commands that I was giving to Watson…
Next up was the exercise of walking past food lying on the ground. The dog is supposed to ignore this and carry on. Watson has a habit of wanting to grab anything that smells as though it’s food, so I was a trifle worried about this. In the event, he walked past the food without reacting, so a quick sigh of relief, and then onto the most difficult test: the café test.
We approached the four chairs, three of them occupied, and the fourth empty, waiting for me to take my place. Watson, of course, was immediately fixated on the three people; tail furiously wagging and bounding forward wanting to greet them. Just what I didn’t want. I managed to get him sitting beside me with some difficulty, and then came the second part of the test. Two of the three people want to stroke the dog under test, the third is supposedly afraid of dogs, and there must be no contact between that person and the dog being tested. Watson is not so discriminating; he wants to say hello to everyone… Thankfully, I managed to steer him towards to the two people that he should approach, and keep him away from the third. The end of the test is when he returns to a sitting or lying position next to his owner’s chair. It was only with some effort that I managed to do this – Watson wanted to carry on saying hello to all the nice people…
After this, the rest of the tests were not so taxing. I stumbled through them, while reviewing in my mind what the outcome of the café test might be. Had we passed? Had we failed?
Finally, all the dogs had been through the exam, and we all waited anxiously while the examiner and the instructors deliberated over the outcome. We were called into the canteen, and given the results: we had all passed!
Watson had done well. Only the café test got a “Voldoende” (sufficient) mark, the rest were all “Goed” (good). I must admit I was a little surprised at the overall high marks – but I am very pleased that Watson did so well. Here’s the evidence:
With much relief, I headed home with Watson. As I turned into our drive, I noticed that Martin had decorated the entrance with bunting. He obviously had more faith in Watson that I did. A fact that was given further evidence by the appearance of a cake decorated with the words “Watson Geslaagd” (Watson Passed) and friends and neighbours to celebrate.
Thanks to everyone: the instructors at Agility Club Achterhoek (Sandra and Jonna, not forgetting Wendy for the first puppy course), the support of friends and neighbours, and of course Martin, but most of all to Watson for coming through on the day. I’m proud of you.
…and if I look exhausted in the photo above, then so I was. And so was Watson – he slept practically all afternoon…